Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty (http://www.amazon.com/Needs-Donuts-Mark-Alan-Stamaty/dp/0375825509) is one of Henry’s favorite books, and it is ridiculous. The protagonist is Sam, a little boy who loves donuts and sets off for the big city to find them. He meets a man, Mr. Bikferd, who shows him how to collect donuts and where he stores them. It’s actually pretty creepy when Mr. Bikferd shows Sam his darkened warehouse, but nothing bad happens. An older woman pops up here and there, emphatically stating, “Who needs donuts when you’ve got love?” At first, Sam seems to think donuts are more than enough, but after a few adventures decides otherwise and returns home since that’s where his love is found. It is such an odd book; I don’t think I would have bought it for the Hen, but it was gifted to us by an anonymous donor (if you’re reading this and gave it to Henry, please let us know to thank you!). Henry loves it, probably because of the intricate pictures and the silliness of the story. So we keep on reading it. Again and again and again.
Back to the donuts we consumed on Saturday morning. After sweating it out at an awesome yoga class at the St. Petersburg YMCA (it wasn’t even hot yoga and I was dripping!), I stopped by Fray’s Donut House (http://fraysdonuthouse.com) to get half a dozen of their delicious donuts to chow down on with the family. They are known for their Apple Fritters and Honey Dip Glazed Donuts, but since we’d previously given those a whirl I picked other totally random ones: Boston Filled Chocolate Cover, Sour Cream Cake, Maple Cover Raised, Marble, Sugar Raised, and Strawberry Cover Sprinkle. Oh my goodness. They were delicious. Keith and I each had two because we are adults, and Henry had his first entire donut. I’m pretty sure he liked it. It’s a good thing we don’t live near Fray’s, or we would be stopping by all the time.
Last night for dinner the Hen and I tried a new recipe I found on Pinterest from Six Sisters Stuff (http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/02/poppy-seed-chicken-casserole.html), and it was delicious! We made couscous to pair with it, and the casserole was a creamy, crunchy, mass of yumminess that we couldn’t eat fast enough. And it was easy to make; I highly recommend it.
Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole Ingredients:
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced (I cooked it in a frying pan with 1 Tbs coconut oil and some Penzeys Sunny Spain seasoning for flavor)
This past week, Henry and I took an extended Field Trip Friday to our good friends’ home – the Lindeman Lair – in Coral Springs (where we used to live). We spent around 48 hours just relaxing, playing and hanging out; we never even left their house to go anywhere once we arrived. We spent tons of time outdoors swimming in their super sweet pool (Hen even tried the slide!), trying out our racquetball skills (nonexistent for both of us), and playing swords and light sabers (Hen and the other kids did this, not the adults). It was so much fun!
The Lindemans have three kids: nine and six year old boys and an 11-month-old girl, and Henry loved playing/chasing after the big boys and loving on baby Divya and her pink cars and toys. Our other friends, the Millers, came over each day with their kids (ages 14, 12, 8), and we had a little party Friday night getting together with the Donners and Budas, too. Hen having so many playmates allowed us adults to catch up after not seeing each other for 7 months. Gosh, it’s just so nice and fun to be around people who love you. In Henry’s words to describe the weekend, “I happy, mama.” Exactly.
For this week’s Playground of the Week, we traveled to Saint Petersburg to its Walter Fuller Recreation Complex located at 7891 26th Ave N, 33710. Its playground is fully fenced in, with two separate areas. It looks like one of the playground areas was built first (faded plastic, no shade) and then they added a second area later to expand the playground. The newer section has some shaded umbrella areas, but not enough to fully cover the equipment. So it made for a hot day at the park! The equipment was challenging, yet fun, for Henry with plenty of things to climb and slide. Henry especially loved the bouncing digger and ATV. He also loved the swings, located outside the fence, partially under giant shade trees. We couldn’t stay as long as we wanted because it simply got too hot and it felt like our faces were melting off Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark-style.
Since it is part of a larger rec center, ball fields, and pool, there was a pretty large summer camp program operating out of the center while we were playing. The kids were older elementary ages and were definitely excited to be outside. This made the park less fun for the Hen because he loves playing with other kids, and they just wanted to hang out together (totally understandable; two year olds are demanding). Overall thoughts: not too far from home; liked the containment; did not like the lack of shade; good variety of equipment; will return in winter when the weather is cooler.
It got up to 92 degrees on Saturday, and it felt like 102…summer is definitely here, and will remain here until at least mid-October. Therefore, we have to start our days outside earlier than I would like, or wait until early evening to play outside (and face the evil Mosquitos that LOVE Henry). Saturday morning all three of us went to Largo Central Park to play. The Hen and I play at the park soo much, but Keith doesn’t usually get to play so it was awesome he could come, too. These days, the Hen is most excited by climbing up walls, ladders, spiderwebs, rocks…pretty much everything. Sure, the swings and slides are fun, but they cannot compare to climbing as high as possible. Since the Hen is only two, this means I have to climb up after him so I can help him down, because he hasn’t quite mastered climbing down all these various apparatuses. He’s getting better all the time though, so hopefully I will be able to watch from the ground soon enough.
Despite the heat on Saturday, I decided to make soup for dinner because the ingredients we had left in the fridge were perfect for it. Pinterest is my secret weapon when I want to make something using up ingredients just sitting around and this soup was delicious – Sweet Potato Corn Chowder (http://immaeatthat.com/2013/01/11/chobani-recipes-sweet-potato-corn-chowder/). I modified it a little (less onion and different seasonings), but otherwise it will now be part of our soup rotation. Hen helped me cook; well, mostly he pretended to cook his Mickey Mouse in a separate pot, but he tried shucking the corn husks and helped dump the ingredients in the pot. He is shaping up to be an excellent sous chef (boiling Mickey alive notwithstanding).
Sweet Potato Corn Chowder – serves 4
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
4 ears of corn on the cob
1 cup celery, chopped (more is fine)
1.5-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (Penzeys preferred)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss sweet potatoes with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir sweet potatoes and then bake for another 15 minutes.
While sweet potatoes are baking, boil corn on the cob, and then cut the kernels off. In a high powered blender, combine 1.5 cup of the corn kernels with 1 cup water. Blend until smooth. Set aside corn puree, but leave it in the blender.
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and allow it to get hot, ~2 minutes. Add onions and stir frequently for 5 minutes allowing the onions to slightly soften. Add in the celery and allow vegetables to soften for ~5 minutes, continue to stir frequently. Once vegetables are soft, add in Cajun seasoning and stir until fragrant. Turn heat to low.
By this time your sweet potatoes should be done roasting so use a spatula to transfer all of the roasted sweet potato cubes into your blender with the corn puree. Blend the corn puree and sweet potatoes together until smooth. Add in 1 cup chicken broth and continue to blend. Pour this puree into your soup pot with the softened vegetables. Add in remaining 1 cup chicken broth, remaining corn kernels.
Partially cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Whisk in 1 cup plain yogurt and serve immediately. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For yesterday’s Field Trip Friday, Henry and I visited the Highland Family Aquatic Center in Largo and had so much fun we didn’t even take pictures of the place until afterwards from a distance. This place is great! There are a two pools, one for bigger kids and adults with a 3-story speed slide and a 214 ft corkscrew water slide (you have to be 48 in tall and a swimmer to use) so clearly this was not the pool for the Hen. The pool we used (& loved) had a zero-depth entry area meaning Henry could walk right in. He could also walk all around this area with its play structures, 3 slides (small frog, blue corkscrew, and yellow enclosed), animal squirters, and waterfall-like fountains. Separated by a rope divider, the other section of pool has two corkscrew slides you need to be able to swim to go down. Henry definitely wanted to try them out, and couldn’t seem to figure out why we weren’t going over there. There is a variety of seating, from picnic tables to lounge chairs to covered areas, and the bathrooms and changing areas were very clean. There is also a snack bar and shop for aquatic apparel, but we didn’t check these places out.
Three mornings a week (MWF), from 9:35 to 10:35am, they offer Itty Bitty Splashtime for the littles under five for $1.50 a person. The fountains we kept off for the first half, which really helped Henry adjust to the water because when they turned on, it was like a super soaker nightmare…no one was safe. And Hen thought it was awesome, yet scary. Overall, it was a mini-water park, perfect for my little Hen.
Afterwards, we ate our snack at the playground behind the pool area and played there for a while because it is awesome and in the shade. We will definitely be back to both places.
This week’s playground of the week is PlayWorld at the Highland Recreation Complex in Largo (400 Highland Ave, 33770). It’s a three-story indoor playground for children 11 and under and it is amazing. There are two sections: one for kids under five and then one for bigger kids (but little kids can try it out, too). The younger kids area has tunnels, padded stairs, climbing sections, and giant exercise-like balls to bat. The older kids area has multiple slides (including a 3-story twisting, tunnel slide), platforms to climb, balance beams, hanging climbers. It also has a small rock climbing wall.
Did I mention it is air conditioned?! A/C is my favorite, especially during summertime in Florida. Henry loves the slides, mostly in the bigger kids area. He needs help climbing up to the middle-sized slide, and luckily doesn’t even know how to begin to climb up to the 3-story one, but he giggles with glee each time he slides down. He also likes the tunnels in the little kids area, as well as swinging Tarzan-like on punching bags.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 9-10:30am, they have “Itty, Bitty Playtime” only for kids five and under for $1.50 (it’s normally $3 or $4, depending on whether you have a rec card). It’s so affordable, we may be going here weekly until the heat lets up. I’ve heard it can get incredibly busy during the summer, so it’s great they have a separate playtime for the littles.
One week ago we had one of our friends from college (Lutheran Gator Campus Ministry represent!), take photos of the family, but mostly Henry. Even though her business, Katie Burns Photography (www.katieburnsphotography.com) is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, she offered to do a photo session of us while visiting Florida on vacation. We are so happy she did.
Katie specializes in documentary photography – photography that tells a story – and she is amazing at it. Henry felt comfortable with her right away upon waking from his nap, which doesn’t usually happen (he typically wants to sit and cuddle while gradually waking up). He smiled and flirted with her, while showing her his favorite toys and his room. We played inside and outside, and sometimes forgot she was even there. The pictures capture the Hen’s playfulness and beauty (boys are definitely beautiful). We love them.
The Hen is now 25 months old, and full of awesome most days. He still loves to dance and rocks out to the Foo Fighters (his continued absolute favorite) as well as Sesame Street classics like “C is for Cookie” and “I Love Trash.” He has also begun to sing along to songs we had no idea he knew like Maroon 5’s “Sugar” and songs we sing a lot (like the Lord’s Prayer that Keith sings with him at night). It’s so cute to hear his voice.
He loves to be read to by anyone, and can fill in the words to his stories if we don’t say them fast enough, or even if he just wants to say them with us. His current favs are Demolition, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, Green Eggs and Ham, and In the Night Kitchen, but has many, many others he enjoys. I guess that comes with the territory of having a mom who loves to read and a grandma who was a reading teacher.
He’s begun to branch out with other television shows besides Sesame Street; after nap these days he generally requests Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Thomas and Friends. I would much rather watch Sesame Street, but I can’t win them all. He absolutely would watch Toy Story and Toy Story 2 every day if he were allowed, but alas, they are for special occasions.
He cannot play trains enough ever since getting a set for his birthday from Tia Vanesa. Seriously, it’s every dang day. I wish I liked trains, but I don’t. I usually help build the track and then let him put the trains and buildings together. Second to trains is construction equipment; whether in real life or toys, he knows them all. At the front of our subdivision is a construction site where we spend time every few days walking to, and checking out, the diggers and trucks.
We spend tons of time outside getting Hen’s energy out at playgrounds or in the backyard, although the summer heat is starting to prevent us from going out in the middle of the day. This requires me to get my act together earlier in the morning to play outside, which is just so hard until my coffee kicks into gear (coffee, I love you). Since this post is about the Hen and his life as a 25-month-old, I guess I have to end on a note about him and not my love of coffee – despite his mini-meltdowns mostly due to transitions between activities (or being forced to wear pants; he NEVER wants to wear pants and I don’t blame him) he’s becoming more fantastic all the time. I love that he can tell me about his feelings, and what he likes and dislikes about the world around him.